Christmas is officially drawing near! But how did this year’s advert fare?
For years, the John Lewis Christmas advert has been a source of excitement and intrigue for many marketers. Since 2007, the brand’s extensive creative team have discovered the perfect ingredients to break through seasonal noise and grow awareness exponentially. After the release of its infamous 2011 entry titled ‘The Long Wait’, the advert went viral and the annual pattern of release and dissection by marketers ensued. Over the years the brand has introduced new characters, themes and creative direction with varying results, but two things remain clear; the John Lewis advert is synonymous with the arrival of Christmas and regardless of its perception, people love talking about it!
This year is no exception. With a shift in tone and a break from promoting its sister brand Waitrose, John Lewis adapted its winning formula this year by taking a gamble on timings. Usually, the advert airs mid-November followed by a slew of other big brands hoping to get a piece of the festive advertising pie. This year saw the advert launch a week early in order to satisfy consumer demand for all things Christmas. The move comes as a response to public desire to celebrate harder and earlier, following many ruined Christmases last year due to the pandemic.
So what do you make of this advert and the change in strategy. Has it paid off?
For me, the advert titled the ‘Unexpected Guest’ is a nice progression from last year’s ‘Give a Little Love’, which whilst I appreciated the message of kindness during difficult times, fell a little flat for me personally. It’s certainly not a judgement as they had cut the budget and what they did use was given to several artists to support businesses – a sentiment that fits perfectly with their narrative. This year follows a 14-year old boy called Nathan who discovers a crashed spaceship in the woods and makes an unlikely new friend in Skye, an alien. The pair, although initially cautious, strike up a friendship and Nathan begins teaching Skye all about human Christmas traditions. The advert employs a melancholic, yet uplifting cover of 80’s classic ‘Together in Electric Dreams’, which apart from being an absolute banger, provides the perfect balance of nostalgia for Gen Xers and Xennials with heartfelt lyrics to provoke an emotive response. All this builds to present the oh so important strapline, ending with the message ‘For a Christmas as magical as your first’.
To say this line hit different is an understatement. I myself, along with many others have experienced a tough time during the pandemic, not only due to Covid, but the other dreaded C word, Cancer. Having fought an arduous battle to rid myself of this small, yet undeniably powerful visitor (I’ll call it the ‘Unwanted Guest’ to keep within the theme of this article!), I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and certainly making up for lost time. With this in mind and the general feeling of hope from the public that things are returning to normal, there is a huge pressure mounting on Christmas to fulfil the nation’s ‘eclectic dreams’. This is where although many people will say it’s too early and berate John Lewis for bringing the annoying novelties even further forward, I think they’ve done a fantastic job of reading the room and assessing the need states of their consumers. It is nothing, if not a response to the need to bring a little joy into our lives and provide a bit of escapism to many still struggling out there. And judging by the number of social posts I’ve seen about Christmas trees going up already and the fact that it’s had nearly 2 million views in less than a week, I think they’ve played their ‘ACE’.
Regardless, to some, it’s still too early and others aren’t quite so keen on the storyline, but you can’t deny the superb production value of an advert that is by now a staple of modern British Christmases. So what do you think? Is it just a standard Christmas advert by numbers, or did it resonate with you this year?